A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings

by Gabriel García Márquez
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In the short story "A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings," what are some examples of similes and metaphors?

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In the second paragraph, many similes and metaphors also are present. For example, the angel is compared to a "drenched great-grandfather." This metaphor is important as the angel acts very much like a guardian grandfather to the sick child. As well, the angel is compared to a "castaway from a foreign ship." These attempts to identify the angel are important to the people in their attempt to rationalize the existence of the angel and where he originated from.

Three important similes occur later in the story in connection with the angel:

Besides, the few miracles attributed to the angel showed a certain mental disorder, like the blind man who didn’t recover his sight but grew three new teeth, or the paralytic who didn’t get to walk but almost won the lottery, and the leper whose sores sprouted sunflowers. (paragraph 10)

The people expect great events to occur in connection with the angel, but, unfortunately, as he is compared to other dysfunctional angels, they decide that they have an angel with a disorder. They are sorely disappointed. Ironically, he is also compared, metaphorically, at the end of the story to a "senile vulture" when Elisenda watches him fly away. This angel is apparently not the typical, ideal heavenly figure and is simply a curious attraction.

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There is actually an example of both of these literary terms in the first paragraph of this excellent story. Before we examine them, however, let us just remind ourselves about the difference between the two examples of figurative language. Both similes and metaphors compare one object to another object, but the difference is that similes do this by using the word "like" or "as," whereas metaphors assert a direct comparison without these words.

Let us consider the following quote:

Sea and sky were a single ash-grey thing, and the sands of the beach, which on March nights glimmered like powdered light, had become a stew of mud and rotten shellfish.

As the landscape is described as Pelayo wakes up and has to kill more crabs, note the simile that describes the sand on March nights to "powdered night." However, now, it is a "stew of mud and rotten shellfish." I hope you realise that this is a metaphor, as it compares the sands to a stew but without using the word "like" or "as." I hope this gives you the idea of how to spot and identify and distinguish between similes and metaphors. Go ahead and re-read this excellent story and see if you can identify any more. Good luck!

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